After weeks of behind-the-scenes hand-wringing, the Legislature is calling itself into a sprawling, 30-day special session starting on Monday. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said the focus will be on replenishing the state’s dwindling unemployment trust fund, Hurricane Laura disaster relief and ongoing issues with the pandemic. But the expansive 70-item call leaves plenty of room for issues that have nothing to do with the current crises. Nola.com | The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Will Sentell explains:
(Senate President Page) Cortez said House and Senate leaders intentionally made the gathering a broad one to avoid missing key topics. He said some lawmakers have pressed for a chance to win approval for bills that were buried during the regular and special sessions earlier this year when the pandemic dominated debates. “Whether those issues get through I don’t know,” Cortez said. “It is an expansive call. I just don’t know if we will get to all the issues.”
In June, the Legislature took $275 million in federal funding that was intended for local governments and redirected it to a small business grant program. Now, lawmakers are considering shifting that money out of that program because it’s not being utilized effectively. WAFB’s Matt Houston reports:
“A lot of good people have made a good faith effort to get this money distributed but it’s just not moving quickly,” Louisiana Budget Project head Jan Moller said. “Meanwhile there are a lot of people who really do need help right now.” Roughly $100 million in the fund was unspoken for last week, a staffer for the Treasurer’s office said. Lawmakers’ hands will be further tied by state finances because the U.S. Congress has not appropriated any additional money for states to fill holes and address unemployment problems. “Congress hasn’t done its job, which makes it a lot harder for the legislature to do its job,” Moller said.
The case for paid family leave
More than 4 out of 5 civilian workers in the South do not have access to paid family leave, and a majority of mothers in Louisiana who gave birth in 2018 took either unpaid leave or no leave at all. The United States, meanwhile, remains an international outlier as the only major industrialized nation that doesn’t provide paid leave for workers who get sick or become new parents. A new report by Agenda for Children says that states can take actions on their own the ensure that workers can afford to take time off to care for themselves and their families:
(T)he Louisiana Budget Project (LBP)’s financial models show that a paid family and medical leave program that serves 80% of Louisiana’s workforce would cost just 0.47% of payroll costs when fully implemented. The LBP proposal would provide up to 12 weeks of leave and replace 90 percent of the wages of the lowest-wage workers, and replace higher wages at 50 percent, up to a maximum weekly benefit equal to the state average weekly wage (AWW). Consistent with the recommendations outlined in this brief, costs in the LBP model would be shared equally between employers and employees, for a total of about 50 cents for every $100 in earnings.
The price of Washington’s failure
It’s late September, the federal aid appropriated in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic has expired, and families, as well as state and local governments, are struggling to stay financially afloat. But it didn’t have to be this way. Axios’ Alayna Treene and Dan Primack explain the the price of Washington’s failure to produce another relief package:
The bipartisan inability to deliver economic stimulus could impede economic growth for months to come. It will create widespread damage across America — from small businesses to large industries to schools and day cares — and leave many Americans without jobs or homes. … Before Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday, most lawmakers and Hill staff believed there was little chance of passing a new stimulus package before the election. Now, they privately admit there’s virtually no shot.
Stakeholder capitalism is failing
Last year, a group of top CEOs joined together to redefine the role of businesses in society to elevate the interests of workers, the environment and local communities alongside shareholders. The Covid-19 pandemic and the demand for racial justice have tested the pledge of the Business Roundtable, and a new study financed by the Ford Foundation shows that leaders are falling to follow through on their pledge. The New York Times’ Peter S. Goodman explains how the idea of stakeholder capitalism is failing:
“Since the pandemic’s inception,” the study concludes, the Business Roundtable statement “has failed to deliver fundamental shifts in corporate purpose in a moment of grave crisis when enlightened purpose should be paramount.” The study enhances doubts that corporations can be depended upon to moderate their quest for profits to pursue solutions to challenges like climate change, racial injustice and economic inequality. Skeptics argue that a single stakeholder will always retain primacy: the shareholder.
What is Race? Unpacking Racism in Our Structures & Institutions
The Louisiana Budget Project is partnering with LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs, Southern University’s Nelson Mandela College of Government and Social Sciences, NAACP Louisiana State Conference and LSU Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion on a series of moderated discussions about race and racism in America. The kickoff event is today at 3:30 p.m. via Zoom. Click here to register for “Racism: Dismantling the System” and to learn more about the panelists and moderators.
Early childhood survey: Do you have a child under 5 living in your home? If so, the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children wants to understand your child-care needs and how they’ve been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The institute is asking parents to fill out this poll, which is available in English, French, Spanish and Vietnamese and will take less than 15 minutes to complete.
Number of the Day
-11.9% – Change in federal taxes owed by the poorest 20% of Louisianans if the Child Tax Credit authorized in the HEROES Act were to take effect. (Source: ITEP)